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Fri. March 6, 2015 EDITOR'S PICKS :  
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Issue: Israel's Jewish Identity. What Does it Mean?
MidEast Week
PA: Made "Generous" Offer; Israel: "Bring it to the Table"
Israel's Arab Parties United For Election
More Arabs Join Israel's National Service
Jews Killed in Paris Attack Buried in Israel
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Netanyahu's Planned Speech to Congress Sparks Controversy
Egypt Intensifies Crackdown on Islamists
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New SecState Kerry Looks to Middle East for His Bona Fides

Newly-appointed US Secretary of State John Kerry kicked-off his quest to become the next US official trying to succeed where others have failed with phone calls to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas over the weekend. Kerry, former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has a long personal history of involvement in the region and close ties to the principals, including Netanyahu. His office reported that during the phone calls, Kerry focused on helping the PA out of its financial straits and moving forward with the peace process that has been stalled for several years. During his confirmation process, Kerry said a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority would be among the first of his tenure.

Organization of Islamic Cooperation Set to Meet in Cairo

Palestinian officials are hoping the Syrian civil war and the crisis in Mali will not derail consideration of issues critical to its interests at this week’s meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Cairo. The matter of a financial “safety net” for the Palestinian Authority -- an automatic payout to the PA in the event Israel freezes the transfer of funds it collects for the Palestinians and is supposed to transfer to them each month – is atop their agenda. The funds are frequently frozen by the Israeli government in retaliation for moves made by the PA as was the case after the PA sought and received upgraded status at the United Nations. The safety-net mechanism was approved by the Arab League, but the League members failed to implement it when the triggering mechanism should have kicked-in. PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad publicly criticized Arab governments for failing to fulfill their pledges of support, citing that and Israel’s refusal to transfer funds as the reasons for the dire financial situation facing the PA. Last week Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu relented and $100 million was transferred. Also on the agenda is the funding of a strategic plan to develop the city of Jerusalem.

Israelís Lapid Says He Needs only 18 Months to Go from Novice to Prime Minister

The star of Israel’s recent election, media personality-turned-politician Yair Lapid, whose newly formed party shocked the nation by winning 19 out of the 120 parliamentary seats, believes that despite his total lack of experience in government, he will be ready to assume the post of prime minister within 18 months. According to Israel’s Channel 2 television, Lapid threatened that if Prime Minister Netanyahu fails to meet his demands, he will bring down the government and replace the prime minister within 18 months. Speculation  is rife that those demands include his receiving the post of foreign minister and reserving the education and housing ministries for his Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party along with the chairmanship of the parliament’s budget committee. The TV channel also reported that Lapid is placing himself in the middle of negotiations between the prime minister and the “Israeli Home” party that Netanyahu has not decided on whether to include in the coalition.

Water Advisory Lifted after Seven-year Drought

Israel’s “7-lean years” for its water supply is officially over. The announcement by the Water Authority’s head last week ended the emergency austerity situation that has been in effect for the better part of the past decade. Despite recent torrential rains that have dumped a mass of water into Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), Israel’s main reservoir, officials credited the water reclamation and desalination efforts as being the key to the emergence from the drought situation. And because the state’s contracts with the desalination facilities are fixed regardless of the amount of water held in the reservoir, the glut of water is not expected to produce any lowering in the cost of water paid by consumers.

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